Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Riding to the Tour - Part 4

After a night drinking Leffe, on Wednesday morning we were on the mountain to see our first stage of the Tour. 

Bearing in mind where we are, I can't complain too much about the large groups of cyclists riding four abreast, though it did serve up some incredibly tedious riding. even the descent of the Col d'Aspin was torturous. It's steep and tight, but the only overtakes possible were by bicycles, their skilled riders whistling passed us effortlessly, while we spent most of the ride in first gear too close to the stuttering bumper of yet another metallic brown Renault Scenic.

When we finally arrived in Soulan the simple act of purchasing food set the tone for the rest of the day, when it became one of those magic moments where people with no language in common make themselves understood with a smile. It was one of those times when the hassles of travel are made worth it. 

We parked and changed into our shorts, then carried our leathers up the hill to a place high  on a wall above the first turn on the Pla d'Adet climb, where we sat and baked gently in the boiling sun watching the crowd build and build.

Our view for  the day
The atmosphere was magic, every France TV car was cheered, many cyclists received a round of applause and a lone violinist standing by the road provided the soundtrack.

When the race arrived the applause, the cheering rose up the mountain, as if the competitors were riding a wave of noise, though I'm sure it didn't feel that way. As the the leaders rounded the bend the emotion was palpable. Real happiness, genuine appreciation.

The laughing group make their way through the crowds
Each rider, each group got the same; the leaders, the yellow jersey, the auto bus, they even clapped the broom wagon and its blacked out windows.  

With the riders all gone, before the stage was over, everyone began walking down the hill.

We found our bikes, said hello to Dave Brailsford and wound our way through thousands of cars, bikes and motorcycles to get back to Lourdes.

Well away from the race and it's followers, a group the green helmeted, Kawasaki riding moto regulators (you've seen them on the TV) forced their way past us. We tagged on, lost them at a péage, caught them on the autoroute and followed them for 40 miles of high speed formation brilliance.

A perfect end to a great day.

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